Take the scenario of a man who may have some kinds of mental instabilities – perhaps schizophrenia. One night the police are coming to arrest him after a nurse feels threatened by the behaviour of the man, a voice in his head tells him to commit suicide. When the police officer comes he hurts the police officer and so in defence the police officer shoots him a multiple number of times. At this point however, the officer himself has become so badly injured that he needs to be taken to hospital and feels unable to work as part of the police force again. The man with schizophrenia feels like what he did would impact the elections as the event took place on Martin Luther King day. This made him feel proud of himself. How far would you forgive the man for ruining another man’s life?
In another scenario, a man begins to have delusions and hallucinations where he feels as though when he was younger, his father had sexually abused him. He begins to feel depressed and have negative thoughts. One day, he decides to kill his father by cutting his throat with a knife. The same question arises- how far would you forgive this man?
Many thoughts were going through my head when watching the documentary that was on BBC ‘Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity’. Both of the scenarios above are true cases where both men in fact were institutionalised and charges were dropped by reason of insanity. At the time of the documentary they were both receiving help from an mental health institution in America called Summit.
My immediate thoughts when watching this documentary were those along the lines of forgiveness. From a general perspective, throughout the world, there is a range of views based on the idea of forgiveness and it is a very much something that could perhaps be applied to every situation in a different way, perhaps uniquely. Others may disagree and suggest that all forgiveness should be the same regardless of what a situation has entailed.
What actually is the definition of forgiveness? Definitions vary, however it is a process whereby you accept someone’s wrong doings, where someone has done something bad to you or someone else, and you are almost able to wipe the slate clean and move forward by bringing the friendship or relationship closer together again.
There is a huge range of extents at which people may forgive. At one end of the scale there’s people who could possibly forgive every bad person and every bad action committed, whereas on the other end of the scale there’s people who will never forgive and when someone has done them wrong they cut that person off completely and will always feel some kind of resentment towards that person.
I’d say I stand more towards the end of the scale of forgiving everybody for everything. Perhaps because I feel so much responsibility for what’s going on around me or perhaps because I am able to emphasise with others and try to understand why they do bad things.
After watching the documentary I asked other people’s opinions on some of the cases and some seemed quite shocked when I said I would be able to forgive both men:
‘Forgiveness is not about letting what happened be okay or that you accept a person who has done wrong, but it is more choosing to accept what has happened as it did, instead of what could or should have happened. For most of us it is certainly a process that takes time though there are some things which can inhibit the ability to forgive or make the time frame much longer or even never to be able to forgive.
In regard to the scale of forgiveness I’m more towards the end of rarely forgiving someone if they have done wrong towards you or in considering the cases in the documentary, whereby acts have been commited which have them detained in a institute, forgiveness should not be a thing that can be given easily, as whatever has been done is done. If man has killed another man regardless of what the possible causes of the murder are, the horrendous crime has still been committed and the time has to be done. I’m more of a person which would not take kindly to actions that have been committed by the people in the documentary but you have to think about it.
There are certain cases that I could understand and be able differentiate between killing out of cold blood and having no control of your actions. One of which is mentioned above, where a man who can be classed as insane because of the hallucinations and voices he began to experience inside of his head. These leading to him becoming depressed and eventually killing his father after believing that he used to sexually abuse by him as child. You could argue what may have caused these psychological event inside his head if they were genuinely happening and the man had no control over his actions how can you say he did it out of cold blood. Whereas, if these hallucinations were brought on by the long term use of hard drugs then its easy to say that he brought that onto himself and this man cannot ever be forgiven for his act of murder.
There is another case on the documentary that came off to me as the worst one shown. I’ll keep it short by saying it was a man whos mental health was not normal and what he had done was sexually assaulted his own mother in their house at night. From saying that alone, would you be able to forgive this man for what he has done taking into account that he was mentally instable and that after he has become fully aware of what he has done and has even said I should be locked up forever? Hearing this can you forgive him? I’d have to say id still be unable to forgive him of what he has done. The interesting and most amazing thing that many of you will not believe is his parents both his mother and father have completely forgiven him.
I was shocked to find they had no resentment or hate towards their son even after this showing the amount of love they have for him. If I was to put myself into that situation it being one you don’t really want to think about I can’t help but not being able to forgive this man. Samreece had told me it would be hard to forgive this person but she would not be able to be in the same building as him let alone room. I can agree with her only with the latter but not actually being able to forgive him.
In the end of it, the severity of any action always has an effect on how easily one can be forgiven and your ability to empathise with them, thats how I look at it and then there are certain things which I believe can never be forgiven. One thing I always question is that when people do forgive, do they actually forgive you and then, will they be able to forget and move on from it?’ – A
A range of views have been summarised within that opinion, more along the lines of not forgiving those who do wrong, but surely, it is important to take into account someone’s personal situations and experiences, be in their upbringing and experiences or their financial situation or mental health . When deciding whether somebody should be forgiven surely there is a range of things that should be considered. It isn’t making excuses for those who do wrong but so many feel guilt and shame when they do wrong and come to realisation that surely their has to be some kind of understanding from the victims point of view.
There can’t be anyone who’s pure bad or pure good. We all have both good and bad behaviours and surely some things should be excused and exceptions should be made.
It should be considered in the cases above of drug users that even though they have inflicted a mental illness upon themselves, the reasons as to why they were taking drugs in the first place. In most cases surely this is something that people turn to when things aren’t going well or they feel no belonging to anyone or anything? In these cases although it is fair to accept that by taking drugs it is a self inflict of mental harm, but I believe that a lot of the time it is experience that make people turn to this. Surely this chain should also be followed back when considering extents of forgiveness. Where a person only feels the need to comply to a social group then perhaps forgiveness shouldn’t be given, however when considering a person who may have been neglected as a child or abused, surely forgiveness is less questionable and should simply be forgiven.
So there you have it, thoughts and questions raised of forgiving and unforgiving, a wide debate amongst every individual.
My next blog post will be about considering the Sikh beliefs associated with forgiveness and perhaps those of other religions.
Hope you enjoyed reading!
Feel free to leave your thoughts and questions in the comments section.
The documentary can be viewed via the following links:
Love, Samreece x